Learning to manage change

October 20, 2022

By: Jacquelyn D. Heath
Special to The Milwaukee Times

There is an old saying that goes, “The only things that are unavoidable in life are death and taxes.” There is one more irrefutable factor – namely, the element of change.

Nothing in life is static; even the dead change as their earthly remains decompose in the grave. Although change is inevitable, it can and should be managed to ensure the likelihood of a desired outcome, or at least to minimize any negative possibilities.

To manage change effectively, one must understand the characteristics of the change process. All change is comprised of six basic elements that, when combined, work together to result in continuous improvement. However, if one of the elements is left out, the result can range from “not exactly what I had in mind” to “fullfledged disaster.”

Every change process requires the following: vision, skills, incentive, resources, an action plan, and a means to evaluate the change process. So, let’s take a look at what can happen if one of the elements is omitted.

Vision is the first step on the road to change, because you need an idea of what the challenge is and what the desired improvement may look like. If there is no vision, but all the other elements are in place, the result is confusion.

Let’s say you have the vision and all the other elements, with the exception of the skills necessary to make change happen. Without proficiency, your result will be constant anxiety over the effectiveness of the change. You will always wonder if your solution was suitable for the challenge.

Believe it or not, some people try to institute change without an action plan. The fact is, effective change does not happen without a step-by-step road map to follow. Without a plan, the change process is fraught with false starts and never gets off the ground.

We often find ourselves facing change without the necessary resources to accomplish the task. We end up with a feeling of frustration and inadequacy; and the effort expended will likely have little to no effect on the challenge at hand.

All change processes require an incentive to be successful. That is because when it comes to human behavior, people need motivation to act; i.e., a reason to perform. Without an incentive, change may still take place, but at a slower, more gradual pace.

Now, you have a vision, along with the requisite skills, the motivation, adequate and proper resources, and a plan of action. Your change process gets off to a good start but then reaches a point and gets stuck there. One more ingredient is needed – that is, a means of evaluation. You need to know where you’ve been, what you’ve tried, what has worked, and especially, what has not been effective. Without the ability to gauge what, when, where and how to adjust, your progress will be stymied at a plateau.

Change for the purpose of improvement requires concerted effort and constant attention. The bottom line is, change is inevitable; but the outcome based on input and awareness can be controlled. By being in control, this empowers you to make the most of the challenges and opportunities that are a part of everyday life.